Freemasonry in Napoli

Freemasonry in Napoli: Unveiling the History and Secrets

Located 120 miles southeast of Rome, Napoli is on the western coast of Italy. It’s a city full of life, tracing back its roots to the Greek word “Neapolis,” which means “New City.” Napoli has a rich history tied with the old practice of freemasonry. But what are the mysteries that Napoli’s Masonic history holds? What part did Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of San Severo, have in Napoli’s Masonic story?

Key Takeaways

  • The city of Naples, or Napoli, was founded by Greek colonies from Crete and Rhodes in the 9th century B.C.
  • The initial Masonic lodge in Napoli, dubbed “The Perfect Union,” started in 1728.
  • In Napoli, Freemasonry included the English Rite and the deep Scottish Rite, which was popular among the nobility.
  • Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of San Severo, took on the role of the first Grand Master of Freemasonry in Napoli in 1750.
  • Some believe that Raimondo might have betrayed Neapolitan Freemasons to shield a hidden group named “Rosa dell’Ordine Magno.”

Introduction to Freemasonry in Napoli

Freemasonry started in Italy back in 1730. It came from England to Florence. This was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ruled by Giangastone De Medici (1730–38). We’re not certain if freemasonry lodges existed earlier in Naples or Rome. What we do know is that freemasonry came into Italy from elsewhere.

For many years, Italian Freemasons formed small groups. These were made up of rich, educated aristocrats and scholars. Some of these groups even had Catholic priests.

Origins and Arrival of Freemasonry in Italy

In 1730, Englishmen living in Florence introduced Freemasonry to Italy. Florence was then the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It was ruled by the dissolute Giangastone De Medici (1730–38).

Napoli’s Significance in the Masonic Tradition

Italian Freemasons, for decades, formed small, elite groups. These included rich aristocrats and educated scholars. Some groups also welcomed Catholic priests. Egyptian freemasonry in napoli and the gran lodge of napoli were key in shaping the Masonic tradition in this part of Italy.

Neapolis: The Ancient City of Naples

Neapolis was founded by people from Greece in the 9th century B.C. They came from islands like Crete and Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. At first, they settled in Cuma then moved along the coast, creating Partenope. On December 21st, 475, it was renamed Neapolis. This day was special for many because it was the winter solstice, the shortest day showing the start of nature coming back to life. For the Romans and Greeks, the solstice meant the doors to Heaven and Earth were open, looked after by the God Janus.

Derived from the Greek “Neapolis”

The name “Naples,” or Napoli in Italian, comes from the Greek word “Neapolis” (Νεάπολις). It means “New City.” Neapolis was a key Greek trade hub and, a hundred years back, it was known as the “Paris of the south.”

Founded by Greek Colonies in the 9th Century BC

Neapolis was set up by Greek communities from Crete and Rhodes in the 9th century B.C. Their first stop was Cuma. They then moved along the coast, creating Partenope. Later, on December 21st, 475, Partenope was renamed Neapolis.

Significance of the Winter Solstice Date

The renaming of Neapolis on December 21st, 475, is very meaningful for pagans and Freemasons. It was the winter solstice, the shortest day when nature starts to renew. For the Romans and Greeks, this day was special as it meant the gateway between Heaven and Earth was open, watched over by Janus.

The Ruling Dynasties and Their Influence

Neapolis saw rule from various groups after the Greeks and Romans. The Normans from France took over until 1139 AC. Then, the Germanic Svevi ruled until 1302. After them, the French House of Anjou came back.

The Spanish took over in 1501, first with the Aragonese. Then, the Spanish Hapsburgs ruled for two centuries. Finally, the Spanish Bourbons won Naples in 1734. Naples became the capital of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.

Freemasonry in Napoli

The Perfect Union: Napoli’s First Masonic Lodge

In 1728, the first Masonic Lodge in Naples started. It was named “The Perfect Union.” Giorgio Olivares and Francesco Xaverio Geminiani founded it with the Grand Lodge of England’s blessing. This moment marked the start of Freemasonry becoming a steady part of life in Naples.

Role of Foreign Merchants and Military Personnel

Many credit the spread of Freemasonry in Naples to various groups. This includes the military and Navy officers of the Austrian Empire. It also includes Dutch, French, and English traders and Freemasons. They all played a part while navigating in this city, overlooked by Mount Vesuvius.

Louis Lornage, a Frenchman, was a key figure. Hailing from Lyon, he was known for importing high-quality fabrics. He later established his own lodge in 1749, enhancing Freemasonry’s reach in the area.

freemasonry in napoli

The Rivalry Between English and Scottish Rites

In Naples, freemasonry witnessed a race. The traditional English Rite and the mystic Scottish Rite competed. The Scottish Rite, originating in France, went beyond the three degrees. It offered deeper secrets, attracting Naples’ upper class.

The English Rite’s Conventional Three Degrees

The English Rite kept to a simple three-degree structure. This model was clear and direct. It stood in contrast to the Scottish Rite’s mystical approach, drawing in the elite of Naples.

The Scottish Rite’s Esoteric Undertones

The Scottish Rite was known for its extra degrees, suggesting hidden knowledge. This drew Naples’ nobles, promoting the idea of gaining profound Masonic wisdom.

Raimondo di Sangro: The Prince of San Severo

In 1750, the Kingdom of Naples welcomed its first Grand Master, Raimondo di Sangro, known as the Prince of San Severo. He became a member of freemasonry on May 24, 1737, in Paris. The Lodge was named “Duc de Villeray”. Born on January 30, 1710, in Torremaggiore, he came from a noble family with a lineage connected to the Duke of Burgundy and Charlemagne.

Appointed Grand Master of Napoli in 1750

On October 24, 1750, Sangro was named Grand Master of Neapolitan Masonry, marking a key event in freemasonry in Naples. His leadership played a crucial role in the order’s growth and success in the region.

His Aristocratic Lineage and Titles

Besides being the Prince of San Severo, Raimondo held many other prestigious titles. He was Duke of Torremaggiore, Marquis of Santo Stefano di Itri, Count dei Marsi, and Baron of Bugnara. His family, the Di Sangros, included four Pontiffs. One of them was Gregory IX (1227-1241), the founder of the Roman Inquisition. An ancestor, Berardo dei Marsi, had been made a saint by the Church, linking the Di Sangros to the “Order of the Knights of the Temple”.

Connections to the Knights Templar

Raimondo di Sangro was linked to the Knights Templar, which increased the mystery around him. This connection likely helped him gain prominence in both freemasonry in Naples and the Egyptian freemasonry in Napoli.

The Rise and Suppression of Freemasonry

Under Raimondo di Sangro’s lead, Freemasonry in Naples grew quickly. This success showed he was a great choice as Grand Master. However, dark times soon came for the group and Sangro!

Pope Benedict XIV’s Condemnation

In May 1751, Pope Benedict XIV acted quickly to protect the Church-State. He issued a new decree against Freemasonry. This rule said anyone in Freemasonry would be kicked out of the Church.

This decision pushed King Charles VII of Naples to also ban Freemasonry. Just a few months later, he followed the Pope’s lead and made it illegal.

King Charles VII’s Outlawing of Freemasonry

In lockstep with the Pope, Charles VII made Freemasonry illegal in Naples. This further slowed the movement’s growth across the region.

freemasonry in napoli

Raimondo’s Betrayal and Consequences

Raimondo di Sangro planned to admit he was part of Freemasonry. He wanted to show the King that many good and skilled people, both in lay and clergy roles, worked for the Kingdom and the Church. They were also Freemasons. This showed the Order didn’t harm the King or the Church. But things went wrong, and Raimondo was forced to reveal the names of Freemasons in Naples. The Grand Master couldn’t hold out!

After the King commanded it, Raimondo cut ties with the Order. He didn’t want to be excommunicated so he wrote to the Pope on August 1, 1751, asking for forgiveness, and the Pope forgave him. Then, he focused his life on two things he loved: discovering new technology and studying esoterical concepts.

Pressured to Reveal Names of Brethren

Raimondo’s initial idea was to admit his Freemasonry membership to the King. He aimed to prove that many in powerful positions in the Kingdom were also Freemasons. But the plan backfired. Raimondo was then pushed by the King to say who the Freemasons in Naples were.

Public Distancing from the Order

To prevent being excommunicated, Raimondo announced that he was no longer part of the Order. He did this because of the King’s order. Later, on August 1, 1751, he asked the Pope for forgiveness, which the Pope granted.

Dedication to Technological Research and Esoteric Studies

After leaving the Order, Raimondo focused on his love for new technology and deep studies. His beautiful Sansevero Chapel in Naples shows his knowledge of Masonic secrets and alchemy. Many believe he was buried there, showing his lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

The Sansevero Chapel: A Masonic Masterpiece

In Naples lies the famous Sansevero Chapel. It’s believed Raimondo di Sangro rests there. The chapel shows his skill, knowledge of Alchemy, and use of Masonic signs. There’s a story that two skeletons stand there, former servants. The Prince is said to have turned them into anatomical models after killing them. Yet, studies found they were not real. The veins they showed were made of silk, wax, and wire, not from actual people.

Testimony to Raimondo’s Genius and Alchemy

Di Sangro was known for a unique fireworks mix. They made the sound of birds and shone in new colors. These included shades like milk white, grass green, and ruby red. His fireworks formed shapes of houses, temples, and more with their light.

Anatomical Machines and Esoteric Symbolism

The Sansevero Chapel in Naples highlights di Sangro’s deep knowledge. It showcases his love for Alchemy and use of Masonic signs. Inside, there are artificial veins’ complex networks. Also, he was a master of fireworks. His chapel art represents his varied interests and his role in Masonry’s history in Napoli.

The Rosa dell’Ordine Magno Theory

One fascinating theory suggests Raimondo betrayed the Neapolitan Freemasons to protect a secret. He did it to protect the “Rosa dell’Ordine Magno,” a lodge with nearly 300 aristocratic members. These members guarded the true origin of the Carolingian dynasty, to which Raimondo was linked.

Raimondo’s lineage was believed to delink back to the Carolingian rulers, who are also connected to the myth of the “Sacred Graal.” This secret brotherhood safeguarded knowledge about the Carolingians, the “Sacred Graal,” the Rosecroix, and the Templars. Raimondo sought to protect these secrets by leading astray the Neapolitan Freemasons.

A Secret Super Lodge of European Aristocrats

The “Rosa dell’Ordine Magno” was not an ordinary lodge. It consisted of approximately 300 members from Europe’s elite families. Their primary task was to keep the Carolingian dynasty’s origin a secret, a duty linked to Raimondo’s ancestry.

Protecting the Secrets of the Carolingian Dynasty

Members of the “Rosa dell’Ordine Magno” were charged with preserving secrets tied to the Carolingians. This included keeping the mysteries of the “Sacred Graal,” Rosecroix, and Templars undisclosed. Raimondo used his actions against the Neapolitan Freemasons to protect these sacred aristocratic ties.


The story of Freemasonry in Napoli is filled with intrigue and mystery. It began in the 18th century with the first Masonic lodge. Since then, it has seen both glory and suppression.

For centuries, it was a story of noble families and politics, mixed with a love for secret knowledge. At its center was Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of San Severo. His brilliance and strange ways added to the unique history of Freemasonry in Napoli.

The Sansevero Chapel is a key part of this tale. It showcases machines made to look like human bodies and symbols with deep meanings. This place stands as a tribute to Sangro and the craft he believed in.

In Italy, Freemasonry has faced both bans and rebirths. This journey shows the enduring strength and flexibility of the tradition, even when under pressure.

Diving into the arcana arcanorum continues to pull us in. It keeps us engaged in the history and mystery of Freemasonry in Napoli. This is a testament to the fascinating past of Italy and the lasting legacy of the Gran Lodge of Napoli.


What is the significance of the city of Naples in the history of Freemasonry?

Naples played a key part in Italy’s Freemasonry history. The city’s rich past and diverse rulers helped Freemasonry grow in the area.

When and how did Freemasonry first arrive in Italy?

Freemasonry began in Italy in 1730. This was thanks to English people living in Florence. There are thoughts that lodges existed in Naples or Rome before. But without proof, these remain theories.

What was the significance of the date 21st December 475 in the founding of Neapolis?

On December 21, 475, Neapolis was founded. This day has extra meaning because it’s the winter solstice. For the Romans and Greeks, this symbolized new life. Today, this date is important in both old religions and Freemasonry.

What were the major ruling dynasties that influenced Naples and its Masonic traditions?

Throughout history, many dynasties ruled Naples. These included the Normans, French and German rulers, and the Spanish. Others like the Habsburgs and Bourbons also left their mark. They all played a role in how Freemasonry developed in the city.

When was the first Masonic Lodge established in Naples, and who were its founders?

In 1728, “The Perfect Union” became the first Masonic Lodge in Naples. It was started by Giorgio Olivares and Francesco Xaverio Geminiani with England’s Grand Lodge’s authorization. The lodge grew with support from military and traders, adding to its success.

What was the rivalry between the English Rite and the Scottish Rite in Neapolitan Freemasonry?

Naples saw a rivalry between the English and Scottish Rites. The English, with three degrees, fought the more secretive Scottish Rite. The Scottish Rite’s allure, with many degrees and hidden knowledge, pulled in the city’s elite.

Who was Raimondo di Sangro, and what was his role in Freemasonry in Naples?

Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of San Severo, became Naples’ first Grand Master in 1750. A Freemason from Paris, he descended from Charlemagne. Thanks to him, Naples Freemasonry quickly gained many members.

What happened to Raimondo di Sangro and Freemasonry in Naples due to the intervention of the Pope and the King?

Pope Benedict XIV attacked Freemasonry in 1751, pushing Naples’ King Charles VII to ban it. To avoid punishment, Raimondo distanced himself and asked for forgiveness. This event ended Freemasonry in Naples for a time.

What is the significance of the Sansevero Chapel in relation to Raimondo di Sangro and Freemasonry?

The Sansevero Chapel highlights Raimondo di Sangro’s mastery of alchemy and Masonic symbols. It showcases his late-life fascination with complex anatomical machines and other hidden meanings.

What is the “Rosa dell’Ordine Magno” theory, and how does it relate to Raimondo di Sangro’s actions?

The “Rosa dell’Ordine Magno” theory says Sangro betrayed Naples Freemasons to protect his super secret lodge. This lodge, with important people from Europe, held the Carolingian dynasty’s secrets. Sangro’s action aimed to keep these secrets safe.

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